I’ve delved far enough into this endeavor to notice something which I have seen in MANY industries. That is, a lack of truly critical, negative and accurate reviews of many of the products!
Understanding the Issue
I could tell endless stories about this same tendency in other fields – for instance, I was in the heating equipment business for other 20 years and saw tens of thousands of customers buy things which were not suited to them…because marketing and sales efforts were a lot stronger than neutral and accurate information. A good part of my career was, and still is, spent in dispelling the myths and educating consumers about the realities of said products.
Open a boating magazine and you are VERY unlikely to find negative reviews about boats. The same goes for a lot of other items – and the reason is usually very clear…..CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Boat magazines make their money from the very same manufacturers whose boats they review. It’s not a stretch to say that a negative review could lead directly to lost revenues and profits. This is the exact reason why Consumer Reports is a non-profit and accepts no advertising. It’s the only way you can even attempt to be neutral….but there is more! Not only does a review have to be neutral, but it also has to be accurate. Consumer Reports has millions of dollars in lab equipment which they use to actually measure quality, longevity and other metrics.
In addition to the conflicts of interest, other human foibles enter into the mix. Two of them in particular are the $800 “turkey” theory and the tendency to look at products from only your own (or the reviewers own) point of view. Examples:
Wine, Dine and Giveaways
Drone companies are going all-out on marketing and PR to tech-industry publications. They are providing private events where they feed you and let you have the first flights of their new drones – all very tightly controlled. They make certain to hand you all the talking points and I have found that most technology sites simply reprint them with a couple lines added like “this is really cool”. Many times, a free drone is sent to these publications for review – and, worse yet, the reviewer is often someone who knows lots about smartphones and stereo headphones – but NOTHING about quadcopters .
I have seen thousands of these reprinted PR releases on the web – and at the same time be unable to find a single negative review – even when the particular models are known for problems and defects. Something is very wrong here!
I have seen this over and over again in my old (wood stoves, fireplace, heater) business, and it is truly amazing to watch. Some of the worst products in history have risen to the top of the heap because of a chain of events that goes like this – a company comes along and markets a product VERY well. They spend much more on promotion than they do on the product itself, resulting in strong initial sales. The first crop of owners use the product, and may find it deficient (or they may not know better!) and, wanting everyone else to be in the same boat, tell their neighbors and friends that the new stove heats to the very end of their large house and burns for 14 hours on two pieces of firewood. They talk BOTH themselves and others into buying the same model – everyone joins the club, and the chain moves on. This is the newer version of Emperors New Clothes, an ancient fable that every consumer and citizen should read again. To make the long story short, people tend to believe “experts” and others with sales and marketing ability, while even a child could see that the Emperor was taken for a ride by his new clothier (he was naked)!
The “Seems Fine to Me” effect
I have read a number of reviews by long time experts and R/C hobbyists which mention how easy a product is to build, to learn or to fly. However, when I go a bit further – such as trying one myself – I see that it is only easy for them because they have YEARS of knowledge and experience, making a difficult task seem quite easy!
There are, of course, many levels of each of the above scenarios – conflict of interest may fall on a scale from honest cheerleaders to plain laziness to outright frauds and fakes. The $800 Turkey may only be 1/2 a turkey or it may be a total dud. The expert who makes everything looks easy is giving his honest opinion….BUT, the end result is the same. The consumer, especially the millions now considering taking up this hobby, often end up disappointed or steered in the wrong direction.
No one wants to be the spoilsport and publish a bad review. But the consumer – and, in the end, the industry – loses.
It’s easier to define a problem than to solve it. However, we at Droneflyers are going to make an attempt to publish honest suggestions and reviews/ratings. Since we are not dependent nor connected to ANY companies in this industry, we can do so on a fair basis.
My Qualifications for steering this effort
This is, of course, the key question here…why won’t the $800 turkey theory or the “experts biased view” skew my reviews, suggestions and other writing? I’m not going to claim perfection, but I do have some background and qualifications which allow me to see things from multiple points of view – which is the key to proper critique. As examples:
1. I have been on ALL sides of most of the industries I have been involved with – as consumer, manufacturer, distributor, retailer, service person and even inventor and developer.
2. I am very frugal in financial matters and therefore have a good handle on the basic economics value, pricing, etc.
3. I have spent the last 17+ years building a large online community revolving around consumer education. My technique is to to inclusive of everyone, so I am able to relate to all sides of the story.
4. Although I have general mechanical and technical abilities, I am myself a fairly typical customer for products such as Quadcopters. If I can’t put it together, understand it and fly it, then I am fairly confident that most consumers would not be able to do so.
5. I have decades of experience in writing of all types, including technical manuals for consumer products. I have written and obtained patents and trademarks, the former of which requires the ability to describe and document details in an accurate fashion.
As stated on our About page , our focus will be on information for beginners and intermediates in this endeavor. I hope we can add a missing piece to the amazing amount of information already existing on these aerial robotic platforms!
Craig Issod, Publisher
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